Planning any kind of event is often fraught with stress, but thanks to OpenTable’s new Private Dining pages and these exclusive tips from Michael Fazio, you can plan your next party with less stress, in less time. Fazio, whose book Concierge Confidential will be published soon by St. Martin’s Press, says, “I love-love-love the Private Dining pages on OpenTable because they offer in one step what normally requires three.” He elaborates, “When a client asks us to arrange a private dining experience for a group, we ‘d have to leave a phone message for the person who books private events. We’d only get details about the room capacity and basic pricing structure when our call was returned. Finally, we’d then receive photos of the space and sample menus. What I adore about Private Dining pages is that I can view the room and its capacity and availability, peruse sample menus, and make contact with the event booker — ALL IN ONE STEP!”
Fazio, cofounder of Abigail Michaels Concierge, providers of a vast repertoire of concierge services to nearly 40,000 New Yorkers, shares five tips for planning a party like a pro in the know.
1. Manage your own expectations. “We should never ‘lower’ our expectations, but we all need to be realistic in understanding that the dining experience for a party of four is vastly different than the dining experience for a party of 40,” he says. Fazio suggest that planners stick to less intricate dishes to ensure service goes smoothly.
2. Sidestep sticker shock. While you can plan your own budget, it is difficult to calculate the per-person price of an event simply by looking at a standard menu. Fazio reveals, “Clients will see a menu listing apps for $10, entrées for $25, and wines by the glass for $8. Their logic tells them that the per-person price should be app + entrée + two glasses of wine = $72, yet the group menu starts at $85 per person plus tip and beverage. We have to explain that group events have different pricing because different components are required, such as additional kitchen and wait staff.”
3. Look for ways to save. If your needs are flexible, the restaurant’s pricing may be as well. He advises party planners, “Peak nights are always Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but a restaurant may offer a reduced rate if your event is held any other night.” You may also find a bit more wiggle room in pricing when restaurants have private dining rooms that are part of their regular restaurant space. Fazio points out, “If they can fill those tables with normal business before or after your event, you’ll probably have more bargaining power when it comes to settling on pricing.”
4. Never be afraid of negotiating. According to Fazio, whose company also serves clients in Chicago and Washington, D.C., “Negotiating, when done tactfully, is always acceptable. ” After you get a full proposal from a restaurant, he recommends looking for ways to reduce the rate. “Consider different selections, foregoing dessert, or asking if you can bring your own wine,” he says. Remember to find out if a corkage fee applies.
5. Don’t disregard details. Once you have your menu and beverage selections set, don’t neglect the other factors that can make your event run smoothly. “Think about things like parking, handicap access, and availability of taxis. You’ll want to inform your guests of these details before they arrive,” says Fazio, a regular segment contributor to “The View,” where he often shares secrets of how everyday Americans can get treated like VIPs.